What To See On Hike Six

S-Tree Campground Road to Camp Wildcat Monument

Researched by Stephen D. Bowling

Raccoon Creek

Leaving S-Tree Road, 2022 Sheltowee Trace Challengers will walk down a gravel road to Raccoon Creek. Approximately 1.86 miles into the morning hike, Raccoon Creek presents our first challenge. This deep and often swift-moving creek will require hikers to remove their shoes or get wet feet.

The Raccoon Creek crossing presents an early opportunity to “wash” your feet. There will be several more opportunities as you hike this section.

Concrete has been placed in the creek to help hold the roadway but it is no help to keep your feet dry. One more creek crossing awaits at the foot of the hill before you get to Horse Lick Creek. The Horse Lick Creek crossing is 5.14 miles away and is an unavoidable wet crossing.

Raccoon Falls

A little more than two miles down the hill from S-Tree Road, the sounds of falling water can be heard on the left side of the roadway. Fifty yards to the left, through a large open camping area, Racoon Creek drops 3-5 feet over a firm rock layer creating Racoon Creek Falls. The ledge is 55 feet across and is a split falls for most of the year when water flow is lower.

A nice view of the water of Raccoon Creek rolling over these twin waterfalls just about 50 yards from the Sheltowee Trace.

The area is a very popular camping spot during warm months as ATVs, horses, motorbikes, and hiking enthusiasts fill this area. If you want to camp here in the future, you had better get there early to save your place. It is best to just stop by on a long hike to get cool water or to cool your feet and then keep moving- this close to the roadway, it does get noisy at night.

Horse Lick Creek

A National Forest Service sign is under a few large trees at the point the Sheltowee Trace crosses S-Tree Road and makes its way down into Raccoon Creek, a tributary of Horse Lick Creek.

Horse Lick Creek is created by the union of Little Clover Creek and Clover Bottom Creeks near the Rockcastle and Jackson County Line. The stream travels from north to south for more than 20 miles and takes in water from Laurel Branch, White Oak Creek, Wolf Pen Branch, Raccoon Creek, Dry Fork, and many other small tributaries. The stream flows into the Rockcastle River at an old bridge at the intersection of Jackson, Laurel, and Rockcastle Counties and near where hikers begin their walk on Highway 89. It flows through the communities of Loam and Dango.

One of the many beautiful sites along Horse Lick Creek.

Dango, Kentucky

Once located just downstream from the confluence of Raccoon Creek and Horse Lick Creek, the town of Dango no longer exists. The small community that thrived on the banks of the creek in the edge of Jackson County was abandoned after logging activities slowed and the creation of the Daniel Boone National Forest cleared the area in the 1940s. All that remains is the site of the Carpenter School located high on the hillside across Horse Lick Creek from the Sheltowee Trace. The Dango Post Office opened on January 24, 1906, with William Ledbetter as Postmaster. It was discontinued in 1909 but reestablished on May 31, 1910. The Dango Post office closed for the final time in 1927.

A US Topo Map from the 1980s shows the Carpenter School, one home, and two barns, but the site marker for Dango is no longer marked on the map. I added a marker so that its location can be identified as you pass by the former town’s location.

Dango, which is often described as a Kentucky “ghost town,” is one of the areas in the Daniel Boone Forest where private ownership of the property remains. Although many families left the area, they retained ownership of the land. Much of the Sheltowee Trace in this area passes through these privately owned areas thanks to many individual landowners. Several roadways off Forest Road 431 permit the owners of the land to visit and maintain these open fields along Horse Lick Creek.

Hiking near Dango, Kentucky on Horse Lick Creek.

Horse Lick Creek Crossing

Approximately 5.09 miles after passing Raccoon Falls, hikers will have their first real river crossing on the Sheltowee Trace. The crossing can be impassible during times of high water as the swift current and lots of debris make this area dangerous.

Crossing Horse Lick Creek in 2021.

Be sure to check river levels and conditions prior to crossing Horse Lick Creek. A “more shallow” crossing can be found upstream but this wild river should not be attempted if there is any major current. Be smart and use an alternative route if needed.

Rockcastle County, Kentucky

Established by the Kentucky Legislature in 1810, Rockcastle County is named for the Rockcastle River which runs primarily through Rockcastle and Laurel Counties in southern Kentucky. The county, which is 318 square miles in area, is home to 16,037 residents according to the 2020 Federal Census. The county seat is Mount Vernon, named in honor of the home of George Washington in Virginia.

Eurybia saxicatelli is most often referred to as “Rockcastle aster” and can be found along the bank of Horse lick Creek.

Dr. Thomas Walker is credited as the first European to “discover” the river during his 1750 exploration of the area for the Loyal Land Company. The river was first named the “Lawless River” but was changed because the towering sandstone rock formations that stand on the hillside above the river resembled castle turrets. The river, which is 57.8 miles long, drains thousands of square miles into the Cumberland River. The waters of the river are home to 65 fish species, 38 mussels, and 10 different crayfish. The banks of the river are home to the eurybia saxicastelli, a rare flowering plant that is only found along the Rockcastle River and in the Big South Fork National Park.

Lamero, Kentucky 40341

Lamero, Kentucky is a small unincorporated community located on the banks of the Rockcastle River in Rockcastle County. On September 3, 1925, the Lamero Post Office was established and named for its first Postmaster Charlotte (Yost) Lamoreaux. The name was created as a variation of the family name for Charlotte and her husband, Clarence Sterling Lamoreaux, who operated a small store on the Laurel County side of the river.

The community of Lamero on the Rockcastle and Laurel County line.

Mrs. Lamoreaux served as postmaster for the community until her retirement on April 30, 1942. The Post Office was moved across the river to Rockcastle County on May 12, 1942, and Nora Coldiron was named Postmaster. Several other Postmasters, including Myrtle M. Gillum, would have charge of the office there before it was closed on April 6, 1996, as part of the Postal Services’ efforts to streamline service and be more efficient. Mrs. Charlotte Lamoreaux moved to Ohio and died in Washington County on May 22, 1945. She is buried there in the East Lawn Memorial Park, more than 300 miles from the community that still bears her name.

Laurel County, Kentucky

Colonel Harlan Sanders

At the middle of the Lamero Bridge, hikers will step into a new county- Laurel County. The county was named for the 42-mile-long Laurel River that flows through the county and for the dense concentration of mountain laurel that glows on the banks of the stream. As of the 2020 Federal Census, Laurel County is home to a population of 62,613 residents. The county seat is London and is home to 8,053 “Londonians” as of 2020.

Laurel County was the 80th county in order of creation and was established on December 21, 1825, by the Kentucky Legislature. In January 2016, London voters approved an initiative to make the city wet, making Laurel County one of the “moist’ counties in the state. Laurel County is the home of famed author Silas House, the annual World Chicken Festival, and Laurel River Lake.

In 1930, Harlan Sanders started selling fried chicken and ham out of the back of his Sanders Court Shell Station in North Corbin, Kentucky in Laurel County. He was commissioned an honorary Kentucky Colonel in 1935 and became known as Colonel Sanders. The business later grew into Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Kentucky Highway 89

The route of Highway 89 through four Kentucky counties.

Kentucky Highway 89 is a two-lane roadway maintained by the Kentucky Department of Transportation. The roadway begins at the bridge at Lamero and ends 73.355 miles away in Winchester in Clark County.

The roadway was a major connector in the area and passes through the cities of McKee and Irvine and four Kentucky Counties. The roadway was constructed over many years and was funded by more than 20 Legislative sessions.

The original route of Highway 89 was partially constructed on side trails and animal paths that diverged from the Wilderness Road as it passed through the area. Several Native American sites can be found along Highway 89, which passes through three of Kentucky’s distinct geologic sections.

Lamero Bridge

Spanning several hundred feet across the Rockcastle River, the Lamero Bridge was constructed in 1922 and is a Pennsylvania (Petit) Truss design. The bridge was planned as part of the eastern branch of the Dixie Highway. The Dixie Highway, planned in 1914, was the first automobile route organized to connect the northern tip of Michigan with the South down to Miami, Florida. The brainchild of Carl G. Fisher, the Dixie Highway was later slightly rerouted and designated as Highway 25. Much of the traffic that once crowded the roadway has migrated away with the opening of Interstate 75 (maybe someday they will complete it).

Crossing the Lamero Bridge from Rockcastle County into Laurel County.

Following a comprehensive review by the Kentucky Department of Transportation in 2009-2010, the Highway Department completed a total restoration of the Lamero Bridge in 2011 to repair several rust and corrosion issues found during the inspection of the bridge.

Old Half-Way Point

Since it opened for foot traffic in 1979, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail has evolved. Changes to the trail include numerous reroutes, improvements to creek crossings, road walk changes, and several extensions. The current trail is 343.3 miles. Work is currently underway to move the Southern Terminus of the Sheltowee more than 10 miles south from Burnt Mill Bridge to Rugby, Tennessee making the 2022 trail approximately 354 miles.

A happy hiker at the old Halfway Point in 2021.

In anticipation of the completion of the extension to Rugby, the official Halfway Point has been moved several miles to the south. The old point was located 1.46 miles from the Lamero Bridge as hikers left the blacktop roadway of Highway 490 and crossed Parker Branch. The graffitied sign covered with hundreds of signatures and drawings was removed and a new one was built. The old wooden post and green sign marked the midpoint until 2022. The new halfway point is located on Highway 25 and will be passed on Hike Seven just before hikers cross Interstate 75.

Symbol, Kentucky 40764

As hikers leave Highway 490 and climb up to Winding Blade Road, they pass through an area of Laurel County that was once served by the post office of the community of Symbol. Established by Postmaster Elijah T. Cornett on March 26, 1929, the community of Symbol served a very rural population of subsistence farmers who were isolated by the rough terrain and long distances from London. Farmers in this region sustained themselves on the family farm and ventured to town only occasionally. There they visited and “traded” with local merchants for items they could not produce on their own, including sugar, clothing, and other “store-bought” goods.

A 1960 USGS topo map shows the community of Symbol with 16 houses and one church.

The construction of the Dixie Highway and the Lamero Bridge helped end the subsistence lifestyle as motorized travel was more convenient and the level of required self-reliance decreased. The Symbol Post Office served a vital role in this rural community as many items could be ordered for delivery from catalogs, like J. C. Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward. The population in the area decreased with a downturn in the economy and many from the area traveled north to Ohio in search of employment. The Post Office was discontinued on December 31, 1988.

Winding Blade Road

Hikers on Section Five emerge from the woods and follow Winding Blade Road for .52 miles before the Sheltowee Trace makes a sharp right turn onto Hazel Patch Road. A homemade trail marker, complete with an old arrowhead design, helps mark the way and the turn off of Winding Blade Road.

A small, white turtle and an arrow on a tree help mark the route on Winding Blade Road for hikers. The arrowhead will be used in several locations to help designate old sections of the Sheltowee Trace. Many old arrowhead markers can be found in the Big South Fork.

Located a mile or so away on Winding Stair Road is one of the oldest historical markers in the area. This stone, a roadside marker, was erected in 1942 to mark the route of Boone’s Trace, Mershon’s Crossing, and the Battle of Wildcat Mountain. The effort was part of the 50th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the founding of Kentucky in 1792. Another of these historic markers is at the Camp Wildcat National Battlefield but has been damaged significantly over the years.

Working Forest (Clear Cutting)

According to the Daniel Boone National Forest, timber management involves growing and harvesting timber and other forest products for the purpose of marketing these products to maintain or improve forest resources. The Service also uses selective harvest techniques to enhance wildlife habitat and to provide jobs for local communities.

A view of the clear-cutting operation in 2020 along Wildcat Road. Hikers will notice some regrowth since the logging operations ceased.

After you walk a short distance on Wildcat Road, hikers will enter a section of private property that has been clearcut of trees and the timber hauled away and sold between 2016-2018. By 2021, some regrowth was visible and new trees were sprouting. The Daniel Boone National Forest land managers practice harvesting to decrease stocking density, promote uneven-aged stands, reduce fuel loadings, and preserve ecosystems. Planned and managed timber harvests are usually conducted on a 30-50-year cycle and regrowth will recover with time.

Wildcat Road

Colonel John M. Connell, 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

As you leave the deforested area long the Wildcat Road, you will be following the path used and guarded by the 17th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the battle here on October 21, 1861. The portions of the road have changed since 1861, but it roughly follows the original trail through the woods.

The 17th Ohio guarded the left flank of General Theophilus T. Garrard’s position high on the hill near the Camp Wildcat Monument. Under the command of Colonel John McNeill Connell (1829-1881), the 17th Ohio was originally organized in Lancaster in August 1861 with each soldier signing up for three months of service. The regiment was reorganized with three-year enlistments in August 1861 at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati.

The 17th Ohio did not see direct combat during the Battle of Camp Wildcat. The regiment did serve a vital role in protecting the regiments that were moving down the old Wilderness Road into the battle including the 1st & 2nd Tennessee and 38th Ohio. The men of the 17th Ohio participated in the Battles of Perryville, Corinth (Shiloh), Stones River, Chickamauga, and nearly every major battle in the Western Theatre from 1862 to 1865, including Sherman’s March to the Sea. As you walk along this route imagine the excitement and terror that young recruits experienced marching into the area hearing the sounds of cannons, musket fire, and the screams of wounded men.

Camp Wildcat Battlefield Monument

After walking through the clear-cut area and down the approach road to Wildcat Battlefield, hikers will pass the Camp Wildcat Battlefield Monument. One of the oldest Civil War monuments in the area, the site has three new granite markers with the names of regiments who fought in the battle, two modern historical interpretive signs, and a memorial marker installed in 1942.

Members of the 2020 Sheltowee Trace Hikers Challenge visit the Camp Wildcat Battlefield Monument.
The original 1942 battlefield monument, placed in memory of those who fought here and the 150th Anniversary of Kentucky, was damaged by a falling tree and vandals.

On May 26, 1994, a group of local Civil War historians and community leaders created the Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation, Inc. The current membership consists of approximately fifty enthusiasts who are interested “in preserving, protecting and interpreting the Camp Wildcat Battlefield.” They support and maintain efforts to build trails and preserve battlefield trenches at the site.

More information on the history of the battle and their current preservation efforts can be found at the Camp Wildcat Preservation Foundation website.

Camp Wildcat Battlefield

An illustration of the Battle of Camp Wildcat as drawn by eyewitness Alfred E. Mathews of the 31st Ohio Infantry.
General Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
General Albin Francisco Schoepf

Fought on October 21, 1861, the Battle of Wildcat was an important early Civil War battle fought over control of the Wilderness Road and access to central Kentucky.  Generals Albin F. Schoepf’s (Union) and Felix K. Zollicoffer’s (Confederate) armies fought a fierce battle near Wildcat Mountain in Laurel County. 

The Confederates withdrew southward after sustaining several casualties providing the first Union victory of the Civil War and helping block the Confederate advance into central Kentucky via the Wilderness Road.

© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Hiker Challenge, Hiking the Red River, Sheltowee National Recreation Trail and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What To See On Hike Six

  1. Monica says:

    As always Steve, amazing history and beautiful words. Your posts always make my hiking adventure a bit more memorable. I enjoy having the history of the people who used and lived on this land.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s